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George Hartman (Andy Garcia), a stodgy, bow tie wearing, heart surgeon, is taking his teenage son, Conrad(Spencer Lofranco) to tour the campus of Middleton University. Conrad is only doing this because his father is forcing him to do it. Conrad would much rather be anywhere else listening to music. It’s George’s hope that somehow, someway, Conrad will fall in love with the campus and maybe even find some purpose and direction.
Edith (Vera Farmiga) is also taking her daughter, Audrey (Taissa Farmiga) to visit the campus. Edith is a free spirit of a woman who owns a high end children’s clothing store and is used to speaking her mind. She is definitely a person who likes living in the moment. She fears losing Audrey once she goes away to school and doesn’t want to go on the campus tour. Audrey is the exact opposite of her mother, a driven young woman with a determination to go to Middleton to learn from her hero, a linguistics professor named Dr. Emmerson (Tom Skerritt). She has been planning this day for months and has been dreaming about coming to Middleton since she was nine.
The two adults meet at the start of a campus tour and after Conrad and Audrey make it very clear they don’t want their parents around them (for very different reasons), Edith and George decide to head out across campus to tour it on their own. There are sparks between the two almost from the start as they discover in a very short amount of time that they are attracted to each other. As their children are off on a formal tour, Edith and George explore the campus, having more fun as each moment passes.
Unlike must romantic comedies that have been released recently, it’s nice to say this is a rom-com for adults and not the teen audience. Garcia and Farmiga have a marvelous chemistry that you see from the first time that they meet on the tour. Farmiga is a high energy force who just lights up the screen with a deft touch. Too much of this clearly OCD character would make her seem nuts, but instead Farmiga makes Edith work. Farmiga brings us a character that comes across as carefree, but also someone who truly cares about her daughter. Garcia from the start shows us that his George might not be the straitlaced professional man he likes the world to think he is. That just maybe, there is some life to George that Edith can fully bring out. It’s a role that Garcia rarely gets to explore, but he has a real knack for it.
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While the main emphasis of the film is the budding romance between Edith and George, the backstory is how the two teenagers handle their tours. I felt that Lofranco, who plays Conrad, wasn’t given all that much to do, in most of his scenes he is playing of off Taissa Farmiga’s Audrey. Audrey’s character has the better lines, and is certainly more dramatic of the two. Taissa Farmiga has the bigger part of the two, and though we come off not totally liking her character (she tends to blow up if not given her way), she gives a very pleasant performance.
Director / co-writer Adam Rodgers does a good job of keeping up the pace of the film and bringing out the comedic performances of the two leads. I did feel the film did drag in a section of the movie where George and Edith happen upon a drama class and are dragged (in George’s case, almost kicking and screaming) onto the stage to do a dramatic exercise. That scene tries to show us some of the reasons why these two people are unhappy with their respective marriages, but it seems forced, and almost an excuse to show off their dramatic talents. The film hits better notes when the air is lighter, and the two actors can banter with each other as they abound across campus, reliving their youth.
“At Middleton” is full of fun performances and is an adult romantic comedy that works because of it’s too leads are so perfect for their roles. It’s a film about discovery and romance, where you can spend a day getting away from reality before having to face it, and it’s challenges again. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing in Atlanta at the Plaza Theatre